Magazine article American Libraries

Bringing the Library Home: Adding Libraries to Public Housing Developments Shares Resources and Costs

Magazine article American Libraries

Bringing the Library Home: Adding Libraries to Public Housing Developments Shares Resources and Costs

Article excerpt

As funding challenges continue to threaten their survival, public libraries are teaming up with local public housing authorities to keep costs down and doors open. In these partnerships, the library provides its services to a traditionally underserved community while the housing authority shoulders the cost of building and maintaining a facility.

A rocky start

In August 2013, the first satellite library in a public housing development opened at Estrada Courts in Los Angeles, a joint project between Los Angeles Public Library (LAPL), the Housing Authority of the City of Los Angeles (HACLA), and Kids Progress Inc., a nonprofit established in 2009 by HACLA. The program was designed to bring "social, health, educational, and work opportunities" to high-risk children and youth living in the city's public housing developments, according to the project's website.

The joint venture lasted for just over a year, says Brenda Breaux, principal public relations representative for LAPL, before lack of funding forced it to close. The public library system is looking into revisiting the project and possibly establishing a temporary satellite library at a housing facility this summer, according to Breaux. The project is just getting started, but officials hope that it will mirror the success at Estrada Courts.

Chicago's expansion

Also in 2013, Chicago opened a public library-instead of a typical school library-in a high school in the Back of the Yards neighborhood. Under this arrangement, the city rents space from the Board of Education and pays for the library's operating costs, but the Board of Education covers the building maintenance costs.

In October 2016, the city announced an even broader partnership between Chicago Public Library (CPL) and the Chicago Housing Authority (CHA). The new plan will colocate public libraries within high schools, housing projects, and community centers in an effort to cut costs and increase the number of library patrons.

CPL says it's too early to know how much it will be paying in capital and operating costs for the new branches.

The three proposed libraries include a senior housing building and two mixed-income housing developments in different parts of the city. CPL anticipates that the new branches will open in late 2018.

"This partnership is unique because, in addition to public libraries and public housing, there is also a strong civic architecture component," says CPL Commissioner Brian Bannon.

The design competition yielded 32 entries, and three firms were selected in March. …

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